Still waiting patiently for someone besides Positive Paul to play my name game.
With the first game of the season mere hours away, here are my predictions for the major awards. Hey, every one else is doing it, so I figured I’d jump in. I’ve included one conservative pick and one wild-and-crazy selection for each award. The correct answer will probably turn out to be “None of the above.”
Most Valuable Player
Conservative: Joe Mauer, Twins
Wild and crazy: Grady Sizemore, Indians
Comment: It’s hard to go against a catcher who is coming off a .365 season and his third batting title. Will the new contract make him complacent? No way. Will Target Field affect his numbers? That remains to be seen. As for Sizemore, he was getting better every year until injuries set him back last season. If he can stay healthy, I think he’ll be on a mission to remind people how good he is. The burning question in Cleveland: Will Sizemore be traded like every other Indians’ star?
Conservative: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Wild and crazy: Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
Comment: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with Pujols. Upton really turned heads this spring, and I believe he’s ready for a breakout, superstar-type season.
Conservative: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Wild and crazy: Jake Peavy, White Sox
Comment: Last year was Felix’s breakout season, and it nearly netted him a Cy; I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be as good or better this season. As for Peavy, it’s just a hunch, but I see a big season for him in Chicago after missing most of last season from an ankle injury. Maybe it was that 3-0, 1.35 in three late starts.
Conservative: Roy Halladay, Phillies
Wild and crazy: Tommy Hanson, Braves
Comment: Halladay seems to be the consensus of pundits; he should rack up the victories with the Phillies lineup behind him. You can never count out Tim Lincecum, gunning for his third Cy in a row. Hanson looks like a future ace, and the future could be now.
Rookie of the Year
Conservative: Brian Matusz, Orioles
Wild and crazy: Austin Jackson, Tigers
Comment: Matusz came up last year and went 5-2, 4.63 in eight starts, but kept his rookie eligibility. The lefty, who was the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2008 out of University of San Diego, has had an impressive spring and will be the Orioles No. 4 starter. Jackson came from the Yankees in the Curtis Granderson/Edwin Jackson three-way trade and will be the starting center fielder and leadoff man for the Tigers. He struck out 123 times at AAA last year but has major upside.
Conservative: Jason Heyward, Braves
Wild and crazy: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
Comment: Heyward was the man-crush of spring, and looks like the Next Big Thing. Strasburg has the potential to be the Next Bigger Thing, but his late start (he’ll open in the minors), gives Heyward a major head start. Second runnerup: Aroldis Chapman, Reds.
Manager of the Year
Conservative: Mike Scioscia, Angels
Wild and crazy: Ron Washington, Rangers
Comment: Scioscia won last year for guiding the Angels through the Nick Adenhart death and a series of injuries. This year, the general feeling is that the Angels aren’t what they used to be, so if they win the AL West again, he’ll get more votes. Washington has the cocaine revelation of spring to live down, but also has a very talented team at his disposal. If they win the West, Washington’s story is sure to draw attention.
Conservative: Bobby Cox, Braves
Wild and crazy: Dusty Baker, Reds
Comment: Cox is going to be the sentimental favorite, because he has announced this is his last year. And the Braves happen to be very good — not as good as the Philies, but good enough to contend, and to grab the wild-card spot. The Reds have been down for a long time, but they have a chance to make some noise in the NL Central. If they make enough noise, Baker could win his fourth Manager of the Year award.